First, let’s let some of the headlines speak for themselves:
And this one nearly local to me: Church youth leader from Marysville charged with child molestation.
The Dan Savage quote above really sums it up: we have had the means to notice this epidemic for decades, but we continue to turn a blind eye to it. We let religious institutions shame the victims of their leaders. We let them move offenders to new jobs where they still have access to the types of people they victimize. We often give the religious institutions a pass when we discover that they have aided and abetted in these crimes.
Worse than that, we keep acting surprised when a religious leader (or a politician who flaunts their religious beliefs) who has been vehemently anti-gay turns out to be a sexual criminal of one sort or another. Instead of recognizing the pattern and staying on the look out of other telltale signs, we talk about how it’s just an opinion, or hide behind that disingenuous phrase “traditional values.”
We’re starting to get better. One of the previous times I wrote about the specific tendency of sexual predators to seek out jobs as Youth Pastors, I griped about the fact that news organizations often didn’t identify the arrested or convicted person as a pastor. They would often bury the fact that the criminal was a former paster somewhere in the story. Because once the situation gets to an arrest, the church or other religious institution has (sometimes very reluctantly) fired the person. That pissed me off for a couple of reasons. If a doctor is fired by a hospital, we still refer to that person as a doctor. They are currently unemployed, but they are still a doctor.
And it is newsworthy how the sex predator used the culture of religious institutions to commit their crimes. Also, very importantly: the sexual predators were employed as pastors are the time they committed the crimes.
So notice that in several of the stories above the news agency hasn’t just used the religious title in the headline, in more of the cases they didn’t put the word “former.” Though I admit that in two of the stories above, the first version I saw included that designation as a former pastor, and I specifically looked for other stories about the same crimes that didn’t do that. I failed on one, but the fact that I could find those headlines is, I think a little bit of progress.
I have one other story I consider to be in the same category as the others, even though it involves neither a pastor nor any allegations of sexual assault:
Father Abandoned Son on Side of Highway Because He Thought He Might Be Gay. This story as a few more details on the same incident: Father Charged With Abandoning “Gay” Child Outside Closed Police Station For Them To Find Him New Family.
Why do I consider this the same as the others: one of the most galling aspects of the pastor-as-sexual-molester phenomenon, is that the predator is supposed to be looking out for and even protecting the people they victimize. We also know that the reason so many of these predators go into the ministry and spout their homophobic opinions is to deflect from their own sexual proclivities. Society pressures people to be ashamed of their sexual orientation, and one of the symptoms of that toxicity is the homophobia-spouting sexual predator.
The father who abandoned his son on the road was supposed to care for that child. He is supposed to protect him from bad forces in the world around him, including homophobia. He’s not supposed to be one of those bad forces attacking his son. And he feels free to be such a bad force because of that same toxicity that society fosters—the entire homophobic/misogynist/xenophobic stew that people call “traditional values.”
I don’t have any sum-up for this, other than to say that abusive behavior, sexual or otherwise, isn’t a bug in the traditional values system—it’s a feature.
So first, the Greed Monger who Grifts Money from the Other Types of Republicans While Doing Everything He Condemns: At Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr. bets on big-time football, with a disgraced coach – how Falwell’s been staffing the Liberty athletics department with Good Christian Guys with recent sex scandals of different sorts in their immediate past. . Surprise, surprise, surprise… Remember the strange deals where he found ways to give a handsome pool boy $1.8 million for a real estate deal after mysteriously spending a lot of time with his wife at the young hunky pool boy at various expensive vacation spots. And the $2 million real estate deal financed by the supposed non-profit university to a young hunky personal trainer who he is known to have sent sexy pictures of his wife to. And, of course, colleagues and former employees coming out of the woodwork with evidence that he’s turned his late father’s ministry, the so-called christian university, and other non-profits into a fund to enrich himself, family, and friends.
So, the coach mentioned mentioned in the first link was “forced out at Baylor — itself a private Baptist university — following a wide-ranging sexual and domestic assault scandal involving football players.” But he isn’t the first that Falwell has hired for the university. There’s another coach Falwell insisted the university hire after he lost his job at Ole Miss because he used his school-sponsored cell phone to call an escort service, not to mention previous allegations of inappropriate behavior with high school girls when he coached at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tennessee. I guess all these sexual predators should feel right at home with Falwell, Jr.
Next, the Evangelical Literalist Who Takes Away the Rights of Women, Queer People, While Claiming He’s Not a Bigot: A thorough investigation just destroyed the White House’s attempt to rebrand Mike Pence as not anti-gay. Pence’s staff and the White House were claiming the Pence can’t possibly be homophobic, because he shook hands with the Prime Minister of Ireland, who is one of The Gays! See, he can’t be a bigot! Except that first article dredges up things Pence has been doing as an elected official for nearly 30 years to deny rights to LGBT people and/or take rights and healthcare away from them. Then, of course, there is this that happened just a couple days after is staff was trying to deny the bigotry: Mike Pence Spoke at Fundraiser for Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate Group. (Note: the organization is also anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-women’s equality, and anti-accurate sex education in schools, plus very pro-bullying of queer children in schools). Pence is sure to feel home with all that hate!
The next type of devil/Republican is The Clueless Homocon who Enables and Encourages Neo-Nazis in Hopes Ignoring that Fact that when They Get Power They Will March Him Off to the Camps, Too:Homocon Troll Milo Banned From Midwest Furfest. “Yiannopoulos was banned from Australia earlier this year “on character grounds” and nearly every social media company has suspended his accounts for violating community guidelines against hate speech. Since losing access to his social media pulpits—and, more importantly, his Mercer family funding—Yiannopoulos has fallen millions of dollars into debt and spent his time almost exclusively blaming his self-inflicted wounds on others.”
Milo is only one of a bunch of people in this category (cf Andy Ngo, the entire membership of the Log Cabin Republicans, Peter Thiel, et cetera). Since he’s currently millions of dollars in debt and was just a bit of a week ago whining to is ~400 followers on the only social media platform that hasn’t banned him that not enough of them are shelling out donations to him for him to pay his bills… yet somehow he found the funds to try to buy a membership at Midwest Furfest (a convention that not only have I attended and love, but have had the privilege of being a Guest of Honor). And even though the convention has since banned him, he’s claiming he already has a room at the hotel “booked under someone else’s name” so they can’t keep him out. Never mind that being a guest at the hotel does not give one access to convention space. Also, if the room is his but booked under someone else’s name the hotel can eject him for that and/or revoke his room discount because he isn’t a convention member. If his name isn’t listed as an occupant of the room the hotel can eject him for trespassing. If he is, given his already made public statements that he tends to disrupt the convention, the hotel can legally eject him for that.
The fourth kind of devil is a bit more local, The Paranoid Anti-taxer Who Wants All the Benefits of Society as Long as He Doesn’t Have to Pay His Share of Taxes and THOSE Kind of People Do: Tim Eyman hit with new sanctions, ordered to disclose source of nearly $800K in donations. Eyman’s only income for a couple of decades are running various initiative campaigns to cut taxes, take away gay rights, prevent local tax payers from voting to raise taxes for services they want, and so forth. This is the second time he’s been on trial for mismanaging funds of this campaigns. The previous fines and settlements didn’t teach him a lesson. I hope he winds up penniless by the time this is over.
And now a Bonus category: White Supremacists Who Infiltrate Law Enforcement Institutions and Twist the Culture Until Ordinary Citizens are Perps by Default: Riotlandia: Why Portland Has Become the Epicenter of Far-Right Violence. “…on August 4, 2018, the police launched an unprovoked assault against peaceful protesters, nearly killing one when a flashbang grenade punctured his helmet, resulting in a brain hemorrhage. And on May 1 this year, 20 Patriot Prayer members led by Gibson and accompanied by Ngo attacked antifascists at a bar, fracturing the vertebrae of one woman (whose name was released by Ngo, leading to threats of violence against her, according to her friends). The bar owner claimed that it took police an hour to respond despite numerous emergency calls. The police released a lengthy statement seeking to justify why they didn’t respond until after the fight had ended despite knowledge of the attack as it was happening.” There’s more. So, so much more. Hit the link for the whole extremely well-sourced story.
The Dark Domain, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at an agent of intolerance and his scandalous heirs
One day in the summer of 1981, I was walking around the inside of a huge church sanctuary in Virginia, every now and then stopping to clap once, then listen to the echo. It was something I did just about every day that summer—each day in a different church. I was a member of an evangelical inter-denominational youth choir. I was one of the singers, but I was also the Lead Sound Technician. And while a bunch of the singers were carrying in the sound equipment, our risers, and other parts of our touring program, I would do this exercise to figure out where I wanted to place our speakers and where to aim them. I took this part of the job very seriously.
I was 20 years old. I was a deeply closeted gay guy who for several years had been struggling to reconcile my love of science and my sexual orientation with the religion I had been raised in (Southern Baptists) which is extremely anti-gay, anti-evolution, anti-birth control, anti-modernity, et cetera and ad nauseam. Only eleven years before that day had the Southern Baptist Convention adopted its resolution on race, which was intended to end segregation in Baptist Churches themselves. At the denomination’s founding in 1845, 12 of its 14 statements on faith had been explicitly in favor of slavery, the segregation of the races, and the supremacy of the white race.
That 1970 resolution didn’t make Baptists pro-equality. The very church that my parents had been members of when I was born, for instance, split after the resolution. A number of members forming a new “Bible Baptist” church the aligned itself with one of the other conventions that had split from the Southern Baptist in the previous couple of decades. And at the 1972 convention the convention adopted a resolution condemning public school de-segregation.
One of the pastors leading that charge to re-assert the church’s racist past in 1972 was Jerry Falwell, Sr. Falwell was the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was also the host of the syndicated radio program, the Old Time Gospel Hour, which my grandmother listened to faithfully, where he frequently preached against the civil rights movement, women’s rights, gay rights, and a boatload of other topics. In 1971 he founded Liberty University, which to this day still forbids students of differing races to date. And in 1979 he founded the so-called Moral Majority, a political organization bent on supporting conservative Republicans and rolling back what rights women, racial minorities, and queer people had won in the 70s.
In the mid-80s Falwell infamously lost a lawsuit to one of his former classmates from Baptist Bible College, Jerry Sloan. Sloan had come out of the closet after leaving Baptist Bible College, and had become active with Metropolitan Community Church, which was one of the few explicitly gay and lesbian inclusive denominations at the time. Sloan and Falwell participated in a television debate about, among other things, gay rights. After Falwell insisted that he wasn’t at all prejudiced against gay people, Sloan quoted Falwell as having publically called the MCC “brute beasts” and “a vile and Satanic system.” Further, he said Falwell had predicted “one day they will be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven.”
Falwell said that it was a lie. And when Sloan said he had it on tape, Falwell bet him $5,000 (on television with millions of witnesses) he couldn’t produce it. When Sloan did produce the tape, Falwell refused to pay. So Sloan sued him, won the $5,000 plus court fees, and he donated it all to a queer community center: Falwell Pays $8,900 to Homosexual Activist.
Jerry Falwell, Sr, was a bigot and a liar (not to mention a chisseler for not paying his bet). And he became a multi-millionaire by preaching hate and promoting hate through his radio show, university, and his political organizations. And I, for one, did not shed a single tear when he died in 2007.
So, back to 1981. Earlier in that year, the Director of the touring choir mentioned that he was “this close” to getting us a tour date at Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church. And without thinking, I blurted out, “if you do, I quit.” The Director was flabbergasted and tried to explain how much exposure we would get there—and possibly be on the Old Time Gospel Hour. I said, “I refuse to have anything to do with that evil man. I refuse to do anything that implies I support his divisive, hateful theology.”
A member of the board of directors who was literally helping me untangle some microphone cables when this exchange happened, chimed in, “Me, too. Falwell preaches the opposite of Christ’s teaching, and if you’re going there, I’m resigning from the board and pulling my kids out of the choir.”
The director made some sort of joke to diffuse and change the subject. Later he made sure to inform both of us that he had decided on his own against pursuing the Thomas Road gig because the strict dress code would, among other things, force us to change our uniform and force a lot of the guys to get extremely short haircuts. I like to think that excuse was his way of saving face, and that my threat had been effective.
And so while later that summer in 1981 we did perform at a Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, it wasn’t Falwell’s—it was a beautiful historical building, which is still there, though it has since merged with another church and changed its name and denomination. And I’m glad I didn’t have to quit the chorus over it.
All of these memories came to mind this week as there is a new (and to me totally unsurprising) development in the story of Falwell’s heir, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and his pool boy scandals: ‘Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth’: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence – More than two dozen current and former Liberty University officials describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world.
You may remember that the two pool boy scandals of which I’ve written before — besides having a lot of sexual innuendo — involved Falwell, Jr. finding ways to finance multi-million dollar real estate deals for the benefit of the handsome young men after spending a lot of time flying each young man to various luxurious places along with Falwell and his wife on their private jet.
The new article (interestingly enough written by a journalist who attended Liberty University) lists other financial deals, including loans of $300,000 and more to Falwell’s friends, funneling lucrative contracts related to the university to businesses owned by his son, and more. Plus, apparently Falwell is very fond of talking about his sex life with colleagues. With a lot of crude details of the things he and his wife do.
And most tellingly, in one incident involving the guy many of us have referred to as “the other pool boy” (though he was employed as a personal trainer when he met Falwell, Jr). Junior texted pictures of his wife in sexual fetish costumes—to a bunch of staff members, plus the trainer. He claimed afterward that he had meant to just send it to the trainer (I believe that), but he also tried to claim to the people accidentally included on the wayward message that the purpose of sharing the pictures was not actually sexual. No! Falwell, Jr sent the personal trainer pictures of Mrs. Falwell in fetish gear because the trainer had helped her lose a lot of weight.
Um, yeah, no I don’t believe that.Listen, hot-wifing, threeways, and cuckold fantasies are all perfectly healthy sexual things that a committed couple who are into ethical non-monogamy should be able to engage in without shame. But when you run a couple of massive non-profit organizations (and draw more than a million dollars in salary between those jobs) that explicitly condemn homosexuality, family planning, women’s rights, sexual liberty, drinking, and dancing (yes, dancing!)—well, then this kind of scandal becomes of interest to the public. Because remember, those non-profit organizations are tax exempt, and therefore all of these shenanigans are being subsidized by our tax dollars.
On top of that, Falwell, Jr effectively swung the evangelical base of the Republican party firmly behind Trump (and all of the evil, non-Christ-like policies that has unleashed on us). And apparently he did so because Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, made a blackmailer with more of those kinds of pictures of Mrs. Falwell go away.
You should go read the Politico story. It is full of fascinating details (and keeps the sexual stuff, as much as it could be, more tasteful than I would). The amount of information that people were willing to give the reporter is amazing, given that Liberty University and the associated businesses famously have very strict non-disclosure agreements that claim to stay in force even after a person leaves.
Speaking of those agreements: Jerry Falwell: I Called The FBI On Liberty U Traitors. That’s right! Junior has called the FBI on people for tattling on him.
Listen, some of those financial deals are clearly prosecutable crimes. Junior’s using tuition funds and donations to finance his jet-setting lifestyle and that of his friends—and probably sex partners.
“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”
Given that he’s been flying some of these people across state lines in his private jet to close some of these deals, Junior maybe should have thought twice before calling the Feds.
Maybe he thinks that his buddy, Trump, will bail him out. After all, Trump’s very fine lawyer, Michael Cohen, helped get rid of that pesky blackmailer right? Except now Cohen is cooling his heels in federal prison, convicted of financial crimes on Trump’s behalf. Trump hasn’t shown any sign of being willing to pardon Cohen. Or any of the four other people Mueller got to plead guilty to related crimes, nor the four people Mueller got convicted, nor the 19 other people still under indictment whose cases are on-going.
So, Junior may need to start prepping for some less luxurious accommodations than those he is currently accustomed to.
(Part of the title of this post comes from the hymn, “Up from the Grave He Arose (Low in the Grave He Lay),” by Robert Lowry. It was hymn number 113 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.)
Instead of finishing my binge watch of The Boys a glance at twitter is forcing me to update a previous post. Remember how Jerry Falwell, Jr. and is wife decided for some completely unfathomable reason to hand over $1.8 million dollars to be a gay-friendly flophouse in Miami as a gift to provide an income to a hunky pool boy they met at a very expensive hotel (and how they kept flying him around on their private jet)? Well, it turns out he isn’t the only one: Another ‘Pool Guy’? Falwell Jr’s Personal Trainer Scored $2M From Liberty U To Buy A Gym.
And while there were people trying to figure out if the previous deal used funds from the non-profit religious organization of which Falwell is leader, there is no doubt on this one: Exclusive: Falwell steered Liberty University land deal benefiting his personal trainer.
I’m just going to pull a few paragraphs from that latter story:
The support Falwell provided to the two young men, Granda and Crosswhite, has some parallels. Both were aided in business ventures and both have flown on the nonprofit university’s corporate jet.
One difference: When Falwell helped Crosswhite, he used the assets of Liberty, the tax-exempt university he has led since 2008. Among the largest Christian universities in the world, Liberty depends on hundreds of millions of dollars its students receive in federally backed student loans and Pell grants…
…As Liberty’s leader, Falwell draws an annual salary of nearly $1 million, and is obligated to put the university’s financial interests before his own personal interests when conducting Liberty business.
“The concern is whether the university’s president wanted to do his personal trainer a favor and used Liberty assets to do it,” said Douglas Anderson, a governance specialist and former internal audit chief at Dow Chemical Co, who reviewed both the transaction and Liberty’s explanation of it at Reuters’ request. That would be bad governance, he said. “At a minimum, the terms suggest the buyer got a great deal and Liberty got very little.”
I’m sensing a pattern, here…
Edited to Add: I wrote about the first pool boy scandal here? Oh, you dirty devil—or The preacher and the pool boy… and then…
On Sept 9 Politico posted an exhaustive exposé of Falwell Jr’s financial and sexual scandals. I have some things to say (and maybe talk briefly about my one personal encounter with Junior’s scamvangelist father) about that: The Dark Domain, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at an agent of intolerance and his scandalous heirs.
And let’s be perfectly clear: I am not yet willing to embrace him into the ally fold. Because so far his “apologies” and his repudiations of his former stances have fallen far short of the minimal acceptable act of contrition.
In order to explain that, I have to give you some background. Mr Harris was raised by two of the founders of the evangelical home-schooling movement. I know that there are non-evangelical families that participate in home-schooling, but the largest of the home-school movements are run by very conservative so-called Christians. All of the statistics indicate that the majority of students in those programs, at least, do not receive minimal science education while their history curriculum fall far short of any reasonable expectation of accuracy. And the sex education would be laughable if it wasn’t causing so much harm.
But let’s get back to Mr. Harris. Harris came to prominence in evangelical circles for writing a book called. I Kissed Dating Goodbye which was about how modern dating culture was merely thinly disguised promiscuity. He promulgated all the usual arguments fundamental to purity culture, which is pushed by many churches as a biblical reaction to immorality, when it is actually a codification of practices that victimize natural feelings women experience, while excusing immoral impulses of heterosexual men.
Harris supported an alternative to dating called “courtship,” where a young man—feeling that god has pointed out his intended bride to him—approaches her and her father, and if the father approves, they begin courting. This is different than dating mostly in that everyone agrees there will be no kissing ever, and that they will also spend their time together in chaperoned (usually church-sponsored) activities until such time that that families deem it is time for the two to marry.
You will note that it is the young woman’s father who approves in that description, not the young woman herself. If you bring that up to the folks who push this particular brand of purity culture, they will insist that of course the father consults with his daughter before giving his approval. But counsellors who have worked with young people who feel they are being railroaded by their family’s beliefs on this, as well as the accounts of adults who have fled those churches, report that the majority of the time the young woman’s wishes are not taken into account.
The entire process is built around assumptions that men naturally are imbued by god with insatiable lust, while women are tasked by that same god with ensuring that lust doesn’t become inflamed. The upshot of which is that boys and young men aren’t taught to respect boundaries or take responsibility for their own feelings and actions. And if any so-called sexual sin happens, it is always the fault of the girl or young woman, because it’s her job not to tempt the young man, right?
Harris made a lot of money from that book and subsequent writings, going on to become a pastor in a very anti-gay denomination. Which comes as a surprise to no one.
What has pushed him into the spotlight in recent years are first, his repudiations of his past teachings. It began a few years ago when he said he no longer supported many of the ideas in his first book. Oddly, it was quite some time later before he asked the publisher of his first book to stop selling the book. He and the publisher reached an agreement whereby they would not pursue any further reprints, but they would continue to promote and sell his book until the existing inventory was sold… and they would continue to pay him his royalties throughout this period.
Next, he worked with a documentarian to produce a film and then go an a so-called apology tour for the communities that were harmed by his sex-negative, misogynistic, anti-gay, anti-trans rhetoric. The problem is, the documentary and the tour was all about him (and selling his new apology merchandise) and not about the communities that have been harmed for many years by his anti-gay and anti-feminist teachings and his books.
Since then, he and his wife have announced that they are getting a divorce. Shortly after that he announced that he no longer considered himself a Christian and he specifically issued an apology to the LGBT community. That sounds great. But when he made this last announcement on Instagram, in as accompanied by a pretentious photo of himself gazing out at a lake. A photo was was taken by a professional he hired for the purpose. Which is totally what you would expect an ordinary person to do when issuing an apology about your years of being a leader of a bigoted movement, right? [/sarcasm]
And then, this weekend what did he do? Why he traveled from Ohio to Vancouver, British Columbia and marched in the Gay Pride Parade there. We know this because he posted a number of pictures of himself wearing a rainbow t-shirt to his Instagram account. We see him posing with people at the parade. We see him eating a rainbow donut. We see him standing on a sidewalk with the rainbow-clad crowd applauding the parade in the background, and so on.
All of which seems very… calculated. Joe Jervis over on his blog, Joe.My.God snarkily observed: “I guess we can give him props for at least doing this on his own before a Grindr account or something similar goes public.” I don’t suspect that Harris is going to come out as gay anytime soon—though he certainly wouldn’t be the first conservative pastor whose sermons focused a disproportionate time on sexual matters to be found out to be a closet case. I’m more concerned with how he has found ways to monetize his so-called transformation.
Take that documentary: a blogger named Elizabeth Esther who had written about her own escape from a purity-culture church, participated in Harris’s documentary. Later, when Harris started selling copies of the documentary while doing his apology tour, she saw how her interview with him was edited in a very distorting way. As she says, the whole thing came across as Harris proclaiming, “I had good intentions. I need you to know how good my intentions were!” That’s not an adequate apology to queer kids who were abused and/or kicked out on the street by their religious parents following advice from Harris’ books. It is not an adequate apology to women who were shamed about their own bodies from early childhood. It is not an adequate apology to kids of all genders who were pushed into relationships without adequate understandings of how real relationships work. And so on.
I could rant some more, but Patrick L. Green, who for many years was a pastor at a liberal church near Chicago that ran a youth outreach program which, among other things, tried to support kid who were being victimized in the purity-culture obsessed churches in their community. His post includes a lot of interesting (and sometimes disturbing) information: Joshua Harris’ Creation And What We Need to Consider.
Maybe Harris really is trying to find a way to make amends, but given that he first half-heartedly repudiated his most famous book (and had to be called out many times by ex-evangelicals before he actually asked the publisher to stop selling it), then made a documentary that he sold along with other merchandise on that so-called apology tour, then hiring a professional photographer for his instagram post announcing that he was leaving the church, and then those Pride Parade photos that look staged…
…well, let’s just say, I’m expecting a new book or something similar to go on sale soon. I’m not planning on buying it.
I thought I was getting over the current illness, and since when I woke up Friday morning I saw that my husband had gone into work rather than call in again, I figured he was feeling better, too. Well, not so much. I do not want to go into graphic details, other than to say that we spent a good portion of the evening, for different reasons, taking turns in the bathroom.
Speaking of things that turn one’s stomach,
Catholic Church Spent $77 Million To Remodel Crystal Cathedral Built By Scamvangelicals. A long, long time ago (1955) an evangelist named Robert H. Schuller rented a drive-in theatre in Garden Grove, California one Sunday morning. He invited people to come to church as they were in their cars. It was a drive-in church. He also preached at more traditional church building he rented about a mile away, but the thing that got him coverage in the news were the services (complete with an organ) at that drive-in. As money poured in, he eventually bought a 10-acre plot nearby, and in 1958 broke ground for a “walk-in, drive-in.” That’s right, he had a regular church building, but also a drive-in style lot with an enormous screen where he projected the sermons. Eventually he built the 13-story “Tower of Power” as an office building with a 90-foot illuminated cross on top, and then bought another 10-acres and constructed the “Crystal Cathedral” — hailed as the largest structure in the world constructed completely out of glass, and it contained the fifth-largest organ in the world. By this point he was broadcasting his sermons on television as the “Hour of Power” while continuing to have the drive-in section outside the church and was raking in the dough like never before. They built a giant Prayer Spire beside the building, they opened a private school on the property, the built a memorial garden (a portion of which was an actual cemetery). They staged elaborate holiday pageants at Easter and Christmas every year, charging $45 per person if you wanted to sit inside the church to watch it (admission fee? wouldn’t that mean this wasn’t a church service?). Anyway, despite the fact the Schuller literally once said that spending all those millions was better than trying to feed the poor because “the poor will always be with us, but this monument to god will stand for the ages” money just kept pouring in!
Until it didn’t. As Schuller aged, he eased into retirement, first appointed his eldest son as pastor in 2006, and then due to unspecified disagreements, asking his son to resign and eventually appointing one of his daughters in 2009. In 2010 the church’s board filed for bankruptcy protection. Eventually court filings would reveal that the money problems had been ongoing for a few years, with the board borrowing heavily from the endowment to pay the lavish salaries of the many relatives of Schuller who made up most of the senior staff. Hundreds of more modestly paid employees were laid off, actors and musicians and costume-designers and set-builders who had already put in months work for that year’s Easter Pageant were told they weren’t getting paid after all and so forth.
In the midst of all of this, Schuller’s wife fell ill with pneumonia, and in a particularly tone-deaf move, the church sent out a plea to members to make meals for the Schullers, but not to take them to the Schullers’s home, but rather take them to the Tower of Power and leave the meals with the limo drivers who would deliver the food to the Schullers. I kid you not!
Anyway, as part of the bankruptcy settlement, the property was eventually sold in 2012 to the local Catholic Archdioceses for $57 million dollars. The Catholics have since spent about $77 million dollars more renovating the building (including shipping that enormous organ off to Italy to the refurbished, then shipping it back). And this week, they consecrated the main building, now renamed the Christ Cathedral.
I give all these details because, as an ex-evangelical myself, throughout my childhood and teen years there were always people in my life who watched Schuller’s show faithfully. I thought it was always clear that he was in it just for the money. Schuller died in 2015, but despite the horrible bankruptcy, Schuller’s grandson is still broadcasting the Hour of Power every week from their new home, a nearby Presbyterian building called Shepherd’s Grove. Schuller’s eldest son runs his own ministry, broadcasting services online. His daughter is now a pastor at another church in Orange, California: Sheila Schuller Coleman: Hope Center for Christ opens in AMC Theater.
Which I guess is a very long way of saying, the scam goes on?
While the Catholics distract us with their shiny new glass cathedral in California, look what they are failing to do in West Virginia: Vatican Declines To Defrock Bishop Accused Of Sexual Harassment And Lavish Spending.
Of course, the Catholics aren’t the only church with sex scandals: Bail Denied For Megachurch Leader After Testimony About Threeway Sex Tape With Minor Enrages Judge. Sex trafficking, production of child pornography, coercing underage girls into having sex because otherwise god will be angry at them? Why does that sound familiar?
Okay, I have to stop looking that the religious news, because that’s all too depressing. Oh, look! Consequences: Three White Supremacists Get Prison Sentences For Charlottesville Rioting. Three of Trumps very fine supporters who were identified from the videos punching and choking counter-protestors are getting some prison time. Good.
Meanwhile, how is the so-called straight pride parade doing on lining up corporate sponsors? TripAdvisor Zaps ‘Straight Pride Parade’ Organizers with Cease-and-Desist Letter Peppered with Gay Anthems. Netflix and TripAdvisor aren’t the only ones sending cease and desist letters or otherwise doing everything that can to distance themselves from the hate groups (Patriot Front, Resist Marxism, American Guard, and others) behind the parade: Not One of the Straight Pride Parade’s “Sponsors” Wants to Be Associated With the Event. On the one hand, good for all these companies. On the other, I can’t help but think that each of this stories is just more publicity for the haters.
On the other hand, at least some of the cease and desist letters are entertaining.
Let’s end this with this. The alleged president has “so many racisms, we don’t have time to cover them all!”
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee | A Rundown of Trump’s Racist Racisms:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
And if you follow the news, you know that it still happens.
As Dan said himself a couple years ago, he didn’t stop doing the weekly posts because pastors stopped raping kids in churches, but because the bigots abandoned their “think of the children” arguments against marriage equality. However, the bigots have revived those arguments, but now targeting trans people. And, as Alvin McEwen notes frequently while posting news links on his blog, Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, all of the lies that bigots used to make about gay and lesbian people to justify discriminating against us are being re-purposed toward transgender people.
I am not going to start doing a weekly post of sexual crimes of pastors. However, I noticed when I was compiling the last Friday Five that it was about the third week in a row where several stories about pastors committing sexual and other crimes had not quite made it into the list. I bookmark lots of news each week, but I try to limit the number of stories posted on Friday about how horrible people can be to less than half the links each week. So these have tended to be omitted. I’m going to just list them all here, then follow up with a bit more commentary after:
Pastor Who Backed Murder Charge For Abortion Arrested For Molesting Teenage Relativ and also: Pastor Stephen Bratton: following his confession, his church moved swiftly to excommunicate him from the congregation and scrub any trace of his name from their website.
A few comments:
Please note that I didn’t do a Google news alert. The above stories got bookmarked because they appeared on news sites I read regularly. When I do run a search on “pastor crime” in News, a lot of stories that don’t make it to my usual news sites always pop up.
Back when I was seeing Dan’s weekly posts, one of the things that irritated me was how often the headlines said “former youth pastor” and similar phrases (which you will note at least one of the above headlines employs). The reason that irritates me is that, whenever you read the stories, the crimes the pastor has been arrested or convicted of happened when they still were actively serving as a pastor. Often their victims were members of the church at the time. Yeah, after the sexual predator was arrested, suddenly the church decides to fire him and distance themselves from him, but at the time of the crimes, the pastor was still employed as a pastor, and more importantly, merely being fired is not the same as stripping the person of their credentials. In most cases, these criminals still possess their certification or registration or whatever the specific denomination refers to as its official recognition that the person has been ordained even after they are sent to prison.
As at least two of the stories above explicitly explain, churches in general are really bad at handling these cases. They often cover up the pastor’s crimes. And even when they don’t, they frequently roll out the forgiveness carpet from the perpetrator of these horrendous crimes, while shaming the victims and those who support the victims.
It isn’t transgender students who just want to use the regular bathroom at school who pose a threat to children. Far too often, it is youth pastors and other church leaders.
It all started back in 2012: Jerry Falwell Jr & his wife met a young pool boy on vacation. Then they started ‘helping’ him.. The Falwells were staying at a ritzy hotel in Miami, where 21-year-old Giancarlo Granda was working as a pool attendant. The hunky young man started mysteriously spending a lot of time with the middle-aged couple during their stay. And later he started flying with them on their private jet to various places. He was seen hanging out with the couple on many occasions, without any explanation.
Pro-Trump Pastor Jerry Falwell Gave Hot Young Pool Boy $1.8 Million & Flew Him First Class on Personal Vacations While Promoting Anti-Gay “Christian Values” as Liberty University President. Shortly after befriending the pool boy, the Falwells asks some associates to help them find a business they could buy in order to give their new friend “a good income.” They eventually settled on purchasing a “youth hostel” in Miami, providing the $1 million down payment on the mortgage (the property was valued at more than $4 million at the time), plus $800,000 to renovate the place. After the renovations, promotional material for the hostel listed the former pool boy as the owner, though later court papers list the owner as a shell company that is owned by the Falwells, their son, and one other family member.
This youth hostel was actually the first part of this whole sordid affair that came to light in 2017 when a reporter for Politico wrote: My Weekend at the Falwells’ South Beach Flophouse and Falwell, Jr. Opened ‘Gay-Friendly’ Youth Hostel With 21-Year-Old Pool Boy . The hostel offers what is described as dorm-like accommodations for $20 a night. There is a bar on the premises, a liquor store next door, and a sign on the front door that lists things not allowed inside, including both politics and religion. It is also described as veery gay friendly, with posters for cabaret shows at local gay clubs on display in the aforementioned bar, for example. In other words, it is a business making money on things that Falwell, his ministry and his university all regularly and vitriolically condemn. But you’ll notice when you read that story that most of the reporter’s concern is about possible tax-evasion that this purchase of a youth hostel may represent.
The story finally started registering when this happened: Jerry Falwell Jr and pool boy sued over business venture. Two Miami businessmen, a father and son with the names Jesus Fernandez Sr, and Jesus Fernandez, Jr. had consulted back in 2012 or 2013 with the former pool boy about possible business ventures that he could enter into with the backing of the Falwells, and they had at least one meeting with both Jerry Falwell Jr. and Granda the pool boy. They allege that they were promised shares in the business and other payments, which have not been forthcoming. It was in depositions for this trail that the amount of money the Falwells had given to the pool boy (that $1.8 million above) was revealed. Falwell claims it was a loan, but has so far not produced any proof that there is a repayment plan or that any money has been coming back to them.
Still, at these point it is all a little odd, and several people were making guesses about the nature of the relationship between the Falwells and the pool boy (I mean, why did they suddenly take an interest in a much younger pool attendant to the point of flying him around in their private jet, putting him up at their home at least once, and handing him nearly two million dollars?). Those of us who were guessing various sexual shenanigans (are the Falwells into something like a hot-wife or cuckold kink? Do they just like threeways?) weren’t being taken seriously.
Until this bombshell: Exclusive: Trump fixer Cohen says he helped Falwell handle racy photos.
So Michael Cohen (currently serving a 3 year federal prison sentence for tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations over his hush payments made to a porn star Donald Trump had an affair with in order to keep the affair secret) was asked by Jerry Falwell Jr to recover some “racy photos, the kind that should remain private between a husband and wife” that someone was trying to blackmail him with. Cohen flew to Miami, and claims that he met with the person, made some kind of offer, and that the person destroyed all of the photos–except one that Cohen himself kept. This happened just a few months before the 2015 Iowa caucuses, and crucially, just before Jerry Falwell, Jr stunned a lot of people by endorsing Donald Trump. An endorsement which, by the way, has been widely reported to have been engineered by Cohen.
Some people will ask why this whole sordid affair is newsworthy. First of all, Jerry Falwell, Jr. is a public figure who regularly endorses political candidates and causes, encouraging his large following to vote and donate in these political issues. He does with the aid of several large tax-exempt organizations (some of which are legally forbidden from advocating specific political causes, by the way). There are legitimate questions about just how much of his supposedly private for profit business ventures have been financed with tax exempt donations to the non-profit entities. In which case, these businesses are being financed illegally with taxpayer money. Among the favorite targets of Falwell’s tax-payer subsidized condemnations are the civil rights of gay people, the health and reproductive rights of women, the civil rights of muslims, et cetera and ad nauseam.
On top of all of that, it appears that his endorsement of Trump, which came at a crucial moment just before the Iowa caususes, may have been a repayment to Cohen and Trump for helping to make the sex scandal of the “racy pictures” go away.
Falwell hasn’t just railed against what he calls sexual perversion, he has actively worked to roll back laws protecting everyone’s right to decide their own reproductive health, including trying to legally regulate what consenting adults (straight and queer alike) can do in the privacy of their own relationships. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to such issues for the last several decades that someone who publicly reviles other people for their personal sexual activity has some sexual skeletons in their closet, yet here, once again, that appears to be the case.
Now, we don’t know the exact contents of these racy pictures that Cohen paid someone to destroy. We don’t know for a fact whether the pool boy engaged in some kind of kinky sex with Mr & Mrs Falwell beginning in 2012 and continuing through early 2016 when they were still regularly seen in his company (remember, he was living, attending college, and running that business in Florida, which the Falwells live in Virginia, so all the times they were seen together weren’t merely a matter of happening to bump into a neighbor). We don’t know if that is what so endeared him to them that they shelled out $1.8 million to buy him a sketchy business in 2013. We don’t yet know how much money nor where said money came from that Cohen paid out to someone in Miami in 2015 to make the racy pictures go away. Likewise we don’t yet know who it was that was using those photos.
Now, since one of the times that the pool boy stayed at the Falwells’ mansion in Virginia was after Cohen made the racy photos go away, I think it is very clear that the pool boy wasn’t the person trying to blackmail them. It is very possible that the pool boy is in some of those photos—Cohen described the pictures as “very bad,” so they clearly can’t just be pictures of Falwell and his wife having sex all on their lonesome, as is implied by the phrase “of the sort that should remain private between a husband and wife.”
I have no beef with people living a monogamish relationship. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone the right to engage in kinky sex. One of the points I frequently make when talking about the injustice of sodomy laws, restrictions in reproductive rights, and civil rights for queer people is that as long as no one is getting hurt and everyone involved is a consenting adult—what people do to get their rocks off should be their own business, and outside the review of the law.
But I do have a beef with hypocrisy from people who are actively engaged in taking those kinds of rights away from other people. Particularly if they are either making their living from the tax payer (politicians, prosecutors, police, and so on) or making their living from tax exempt activities (which means indirectly funded by tax payers). If it turns out that Falwell’s decision to endorse self-described pussy-grabber Trump in the Republican primaries in part in gratitude for trying to make the scandal of the racy photos go away, well, we enter an entirely different level. Falwell more than meets the legal definition of a public figure, and this affair—whatever the salacious details—involves public money, the outcome of political campaigns, and the subsequent assault on the rights of LGBT people, women, immigrants, people who do not subscribe to Falwell’s brand of evangelical christianism, and others.
Giancarlo Granda, now in his late twenties and attending grad school in Georgetown, has issued a number of terse replies to various reporters over the series of events. When asked whether he knew anything about the photos, his reply was that he wasn’t the person who attempted to blackmail the Falwells. Which wasn’t exactly the question that was asked. He has a few other gripes with the way the story has been reported: Jerry Falwell’s Pool Boy: Stop Calling Me “Pool Boy”. Sorry, Giancarlo, that isn’t likely to happen. You were doing your job in a skimpy swimsuit as a pool attendant at a Miami hotel when the Falwell’s met you and pulled you into their life in whatever capacity. You went on those trips with them on their private, tax-exempt jet. And I don’t know anyone who believes it was because of your business acumen. So I’m not willing to think you’re a completely innocent victim in all of this.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of the Fernandez’s lawsuit. And if Cohen really did save one of the pictures, well, who knows what will happen, next?
Meanwhile, you might enjoy this video: Rachel Maddow: Michael Cohen Said He Fixed ‘Racy Photo’ Problem For Falwell Jr (Rachel also warns you may feel the need to take a shower after hearing some of the details):
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Edited to Add: A second “pool boy” deal was discovered and I wrote about it here: Late Tuesday Tidbit: The evangelical leader and the other pool boy, and then…
On Sept 9 Politico posted an exhaustive exposé of Falwell Jr’s financial and sexual scandals. I have some things to say (and maybe talk briefly about my one personal encounter with Junior’s scamvangelist father) about that: The Dark Domain, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at an agent of intolerance and his scandalous heirs.
Before I get further, let me get a couple of disclaimers out of the way: I have considered myself an ex-Baptist and an ex-Christian for a long time, so some people will want to dismiss anything I say on these topics out of hand. On the other hand, I learned my deep sense of social justice from that church and more specifically their holy book. I was the kind of nerd who read the Bible, on my own, cover-to-cover more than once (and had rather large swaths of it memorized). I have often said I didn’t leave the church, the church drove me (a gay man) away.
One of the big problems I had, again and again, was the many times that teachers and leaders in the church would insist that god’s love and mercy were unconditional—and then they would lay out a whole bunch of conditions that one must meet to earn that love. At first they said you had to believe in him order to get his love and mercy. And don’t forget obey him, or you won’t receive his love. And obey him in the right way, not the way other churches say to do it, or you won’t receive his love. And ignore these parts of the holy book, but these other parts you must interpret exactly as we say, or you won’t receive his love.
That’s an awful lot of conditions one must meet to qualify for supposedly unconditional divine love.
It’s not just unconditional divine love that the fundamentalist evangelicals don’t understand. They have a similar misapprehension of civil rights. Tony Perkins heads to Fox News to defend Trump administration’s latest attack on trans rights. This takes a little bit to unpack. If you missed the news this weekend, the New York Times got hold of a memo from the department of Health and Human Services that outlines how the government could erase all trans rights: ‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration. More details became available quickly thereafter: The Trump Administration Wants to Define Gender as Biological Sex at Birth.
An important clue in this memo is the assertion that previous definitions of sex “allowed the Obama administration to wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them.”
Tony Perkins mention above is the leader of the Family Research Council, an evangelical fundamentalist hate group that spends all its time an energy not on helping families, but rather on attacking gay rights and transgender rights and so forth. And he has made a very similar argument for years: gay, lesbian, and trans people don’t deserve civil rights protections.
Which means he doesn’t understand what a civil right is: rights aren’t deserved. You have them because you exist, period. They aren’t privileges. The Declaration of Independence referred to rights as “inalienable”—they can’t be transferred or removed. We can argue about what is or isn’t a right, but not who has them. Everyone has them. The moment you argue that some categories of people shouldn’t have their rights protected, well, that’s taking you a very long way down the fascist road.
And it isn’t something that Christians should be fighting for. They are commanded to love everyone, including their enemies. And as the Sermon on the Mount makes clear, love isn’t just about warm fuzzy feelings, it’s action. Love means lifting people up. Love means standing up for people. Love means doing good for people who disagree with you. Love means not just taking care of your own, but taking care of everyone who needs help.
Perkins and his ilk justify their opposition to the rights of transgender people by frequently making the claim that the Bible clear says that there are only two genders. It is true that the Bible frequently refers to two genders, but none of those references say that those two are the only possibilities, nor does it give a definition of those genders. While some portions make a big deal about what sorts of behaviors are appropriate for one gender or the other, other passages contradict those notions. And there there are a few places where the text asserts very insistently that gender is unimportant. Such as:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
—Galatians 3:28, Holy Bible, King James Version
Which seems to back the notion that god’s love really is unconditional, so maybe his so-called followers should stop trying to enforce divisions.
Note: The title comes from the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, #2 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal
Once again stories that didn’t make it into the Friday Five, or new developments in stories that did, have come to my attention. So I’m going to share them with you, along with some commentary and context. Dan Savage used to post this irregular feature on the blog of the Seattle biweekly newspaper, The Stranger called “Youth Pastor Watch.” He had a Google news alert looking for the key phrase “youth pastor” and he would post stories about youth pastors being arrested or charged with molesting girls or boys, having affairs with the wives of congregates, and occasionally other crimes. And there were always concern trolls asking why he only posted news of youth pastors committing crimes. So he started occasionally throw in a story about a Youth Pastor who was in the news for doing something good. And half the time the youth pastor who hadn’t committed a crime would be shown the post with his story in among all these horrible crime stories and he would post a comment to the blog to the effect, “Not quite sure what I’m doing in this post.” You can’t please everyone, I guess.
The point of his posts and my referencing them now is merely a subset of a bigger problem. The evidence of the hundreds, nay, thousands of virulently anti-gay pastors and politicians who have turned out to be hiding some sexual shenanigans of their own has reached the point that I seriously think it should be required of journalists and police to start sniffing around in the background of the vocal anti-gay folks. In hopes of stopping things like this for going on for years: After Threatening Suicide, Anti-gay Pastor Ronnie Gorton Indicted on 47 Charges of Sexually Assaulting Boys. One of this guy’s victims was under 13 years old when the sexual assaults started and went on for more than seven years. At which point he found another teen victim. For some more details Munford pastor indicted on 47 counts of sexually assaulting teens.
I don’t want to deny anyone due process. But this stuff is crazy.
Other pastors have similar secrets: Pastor was ‘counseling’ the young, naked man tied up in his car, he says. Please note that’s what he says, now. When the police first came up to the car parked on a well-lit residential street that neighbors had called in for suspicious activity, the pastor had a different story. The young naked man was bound in nylon rope, sitting in the front seat. The minister was sitting in the back and had to “re-arrange his clothes” when he saw the police walking up. That pastor didn’t identify himself right away, and tried to assure the cops nothing wrong was happening because “We were just playing. We meet up from time to time to play.”
Playing is not counseling. Clearly, the pastor was afraid he was going to be arrested for kidnapping or something, so he told the truth. Sexual play. The young man probably has a humiliation/exhibition kink, and the pastor likes to jerk-off while making naked young men do whatever he says. Mostly technically not illegal (public nudity laws being a thing), but when you rant from the pulpit about the supposed sexual immoralities of other people, encouraging your congregation to oppose gay rights laws in order to stamp out perversion, et cetera… well, no one at all should be surprised when it turns out you have more than a bit of experience with that perversion.
And I’m going to have to remember this the next time:
“If you insist that ‘How can you talk about gun control when you’re never fired a gun’ is a valid argument, then I’m free to conclude that the only reason you could possibly have a legitimate opinion about gay sex is if you have a lot of experience with it.”
(In addition to that fact that this liberal queer blogger used to be a card-carrying member of the NRA, has owned guns, has used those guns to hunt various animals for food, and so forth, as I explained here. So by their logic I can indeed lecture them about gun control.)
ETA: And then I saw this story after posting: Medical Board Finds Ex-Gay Torture Psychiatrist Guilty Of Having Sex With Male Patients. It wasn’t just having sex. Two of the patients thought the groping and such was supposed to be therapy at the beginning. So there was some coercion/deception going on. One of the patients was an 18-year-old sent to the doctor by his parents…